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CHS looks for sponsors to upgrade theatre seating

The Theatre Renovation Committee wants you to take a seat. Literally.

The group—which supports the ongoing upgrade of Claremont High School’s 40-year-old theater—is asking community members to help provide chairs for the Don F. Fruechte Theatre for Performing Arts, which opens this spring.

A $325 contribution covers the purchase of a cushioned, flip-up seat and its installation plus an engraved plaque to be placed on the armrest in honor of the chair’s sponsor, whether it is an individual or a business. The Theatre Renovation Committee (TRC) hopes to net 266 seats for the venue.

Chairs weren’t included in the original plans because the renovation was funded through a state Career and Technical Education grant. As a result, the project’s budget—$1.5 million from the state, a $1.5 matching bridge loan from Claremont Unified School District and $400,000 raised by theater boosters—was allocated for features that best support vocational education.

Improvements to the CHS Theatre include 3500 square feet of additional classroom space for behind-the-scenes activities like makeup, costumes, props and lighting. A 1600-square-foot lobby with a box office, providing students with a hands-on education in the business aspects of theater, is also being constructed. 

The theater has even received a graded floor, designed to accommodate stadium-style seating. Without the committee’s Take a Seat campaign, however, theatergoers would find themselves perched on the same metal folding chairs they’ve sat on in years past.

“We had a discussion about the seating and decided the program and the community really deserved to have professional, comfortable seating,” said Hilary LaConte, CUSD board member and co-chair of the Theatre Renovation Committee, who is a CHS theater department alumna.

News the theater will have permanent seating has provided a boost to Ms. Elhai and her students, who are itching to get out of their temporary Campus Center quarters. Since most of the renovations will only be seen and enjoyed by the students, it seems only fair to provide the community that has lent so much support to the renovation with a visible benefit, Ms. Elhai said.

“When you walk into the theater seating, with the house that is raised like a movie theater, it’s going to make a huge difference from the audience’s point of view,” Ms. Elhai said. “I helped choose the seats. I’m very excited.”

It might seem that the large number of seats the TRC hopes to sell represents an overly ambitious goal. According to Ms. Elhai, however, many people have already expressed an interest in participating.

The instructor was approached by a number of people, with money in hand, eager to sponsor a seat, at the recent memorial service for former CHS administrator and longtime CHS theater booster Ronald L. Meyer.

“It’s very sad he’s not going to see the finished renovation, but there are going to be a lot of chairs with his name on it,” Ms. Elhai said.

Many former student thespians have also expressed an interest in sponsoring a chair dedicated to their parents for attending countless productions during their tenure at CHS.

“A few weeks ago I was worried that we wouldn’t sell them,” Ms. Elhai said.  “After the interest in the last week, now I’m afraid we’re not going to have enough to sell.”

Those who wish to sponsor a seat in the CHS Theatre can visit the following URL and donate online: http://chstheatrerenovation.cusd.claremont. edu.

“It’s really exciting,” said Bridget Healy, co-chair of the Theatre Renovation Committee, whose daughter was involved in the CHS theater program. “Every time I’m on campus, which is generally once or twice a week, it makes me smile to see all the construction going on.”

For further information, contact Bridget Healy at  624-3131

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier

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